4 critical, 2 missing after fire and explosion on Gulf platform



Posted on November 16, 2012 at 3:04 PM

OFF THE GULF COAST -  Four people were in critical condition and two others were missing after a fire and explosion on a platform in the Gulf of Mexico south of Grand Isle Friday morning.

Coast Guard Incident Commander Ed Cubanski said that 26 people were aboard the platform Friday morning. Of those, 4 left the platform before the incident, 11 were medevaced out following the explosion for treatment, 2 were missing and 9 were safely evacuated without injury.

Cubanski said that despite earlier reports there are no confirmed deaths in the incident. He said an active search is ongoing for two crew members.

Four people were airlifted to West Jefferson Medical Center were said by a spokesperson Taslin Alfonso to be in critical condition with second and third-degree burns over a large portion of their bodies. Two of the victims were taken to the Baton Rouge General Hospital Burn Unit. The other two victims were slated to be shipped to the burn unit in a few hours.

Grand Isle officials said three others who were on the platform were being treated by EMS in Grand Isle and considered to be "walking wounded." They were taken to Our Lady Star of the Sea hospital. Their conditions were not known.

"It's a terrible day," said John Hoffman, the CEO of Black Elk Energy. "When something like this happens, it tears at everyone's heart."

Cubanski said the fire and explosion came as workers were using a torch to cut a pipe that contained a maximum of 75 gallons of oil. According to the Coast Guard the structure of platform is "intact with no structural damage. Reports said that a small oil sheen was in the water that indicated less than 10 gallons of product had gone into the water. Cubanski said the spill was limited to the oil in the section of damaged pipe.

Captain Peter Gautier of the Coast Guard said the platform, run by Black Elk Energy, was not producing oil and no enviromental threat is anticipated. A federal official says a team of environmental enforcement inspectors is flying to the scene.

David Smith, a spokesman for the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said the team was dispatched from a Gulf Coast base by helicopter soon after the U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the emergency. Smith said the team would scan for any evidence of oil spilling and investigate the cause of the explosion.

The Coast Guard said that after the incident, rescues were conducted by the Guard and by Good Samaritans.

The platform belongs to Black Elk Energry out of Houston, Texas. It produces both oil and natural gas.